First report by clinical taskforce on obesity due next month

Malta retained among the highest levels of obesity in western Europe, together with the United Kingdom and Iceland

For the past 20 years, Malta has faced a worrying trend of an ever increasing obesity rate in its citizens, leading it to become the country with the highest rate of obese man in Europe and the second highest for women.

Health Minister Chris Fearne has now confirmed that a report is due next month on how obesity can be medically tackled. The report is being drafted by a clinical taskforce set up to provide recommendations on how obesity should be tackled as a medical issue which requires medical solutions.

A study published in the Lancet this year reconfirmed the unsurprising and unflattering news that Malta retained among the highest levels of obesity in western Europe, together with the United Kingdom and Iceland.

The report, which calls for global action and leadership to help countries to effectively intervene more, also sheds light on how no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years.

In Malta, the high rate of obesity is across all ages: 41% of schoolchildren have been classified as obese, with a higher incidence in boys than in girls. The figure emerges from data collected from schools all over Malta, measuring the Body Mass Index (BMI) of children. This was the first time such data collection took place.

“The high rate of obesity in Malta is of deep concern,” Fearne told MaltaToday, quickly adding that the government had introduced a number of programmes in a bid to start dealing with the issue.

Malta, he added, had been one of the first EU countries to introduce a food and nutrition policy.

The country also launched a new action plan to address the negative impact of unhealthy diets. The plan is to reduce overall salt and fat consumption, eliminate trans fats, use price policies to promote healthier foods and reduce unhealthy products, restrict the marketing of food to children and improve monitoring and surveillance mechanisms.

“The World Health Organisation forecasts Malta will stabilise its rate in the coming five years thanks to the policies we plan on introducing; other countries are expected to increase their rate. But this definitely shouldn’t making us happy,” Fearne added.

The government’s first goal was to stop the obesity rate from continuing to increase – a trend which has been going on for the past 20 years. After that, the next step would be targeting a reduction in the rate.

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